August - November, 2011
SCA CORPS MEMBERS ARRIVE
Monday September 5th
The members arrived to Nashville on August 5th 2011. They were all excited to start learning about the Army Corps of Engineers and the Student Conservation Association. It seemed like everyone clicked right from the start. We bonded over a few games of scrabble and a grill full of hamburgers.
Tuesday September 6th
Wednesday September 7th
We arrived to the Army Corps of Engineers property at 8:00 AM to begin the SCA training. The day started with a name game and where the wind blows. Dick Kasul, who is an engineer with the Engineer Research and Development Center Waterways Experiment Station, a branch of the Army Corps of Engineers(ACE), gave our crew an overview of ACE. Then I gave the members an overview of the SCA and told them about my past experiences in the SCA community programs.. I then opened the floor to the 2 SCA alumni in our crew. Caleb Roupp is a SCA alumnus and told us about his experiences with the SCA Mass Parks Program. Erin Jones is also an SCA alumnus and did an internship with the Bureau of Land Management.
The Tuesday training that we did was pretty standard. We discussed everyone’s hopes and fears, went over the field operating standards, the member handbook, emergency response plans, job hazard analysis, take 5 for safety, sexual harassment, and drive safe drive smart. I tried not to bore them too much with never ending PowerPoint’s. We had some interesting discussions and I created a member handbook/FOS jeopardy game, which everyone seemed to enjoy. That night we went to one of the boat ramps and I conducted the behind the wheel training. No cones were harmed during this training, but a couple got nudged. After everyone successfully made it through the course we returned home and made tacos for "Taco Tuesday".
On Wednesday we continued our SCA training. We started the day with a morning stretch circle. We have a couple of people that knew yoga which made for some interesting stretching. After we were all warmed up we talked about conflict management and watched some videos on the topic. I then had them do the "battle lines" activity and it seemed everyone is open to compromise and collaboration. After that, we talked about being professional and how people perceive their own professionalism. I explained that part of being professional is wearing a uniform. After that I handed out a bunch of SCA gear to the members so that they can look professional while surveying.
The next thing on the agenda was to learn about vehicle maintenance and changing a flat tire. One of the trucks actually had a flat tire, so the training simulation became a real-life situation. After the truck’s tire was changed, we drove around to nearby recreation areas. We had lunch at the Smith Spring recreation area and played 2 rounds of camouflage. When we returned back to the meeting room we went over the AmeriCorps time sheet submission protocol. We also talked about the SCA field websites. When we returned home we made a group contract so that we had ground rules and guidelines. Somehow "Taco Tuesday" made it on to our group contract.
ACE SURVEY TRAINING
Thursday September 8th
On Thursday we were joined by ACE Rangers from the various projects we will be working at this fall. We were also joined by Meredith Bridgers who works with the Natural Resources Support Program in conjunction with the Institute of Water Resources (IWR)/ The Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). She created the ACE survey training and facilitated the training with Dick Kasul.
The training started with a sampling overview. She described the importance of the surveys and how they will be used. The surveys being conducted will estimate recreation visits to the recreation areas, determine participation in popular activities and determine where the visitors are from. We went over the sampling schedules and made teams. We have 3 teams of two people. Each team has 6 recreation areas that they will be surveying. The survey schedule is split into 4 time periods: early morning, late morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon. Each team will visit each site 4 times at each time period. Survey days and times are randomly generated Monday-Friday whereas only the weekend survey times are randomly generated. Every weekend day has to be captured by the surveys because they tend to be the busiest times. The survey times are randomly generated in order to minimize bias in the final data analysis.
After an overview of surveying and scheduling she talked about how to conduct the surveys, what setups look like and what are some of the safety considerations. Every recreation site is setup different, and the survey setup has to be setup in a way to maximize effectiveness and safety. The setups need to guide the exiting visitors to a spot where the surveyors can collect the data. Each survey team has: traffic cones; a speed bump; a "Survey Ahead” sign; a "Speed Bump” sign; a "All Vehicles Stop Here" sign; a survey computer; a computer holder; camping chairs and a pop-up tent. Each setup has to take into consideration, visibility, room for back up, width of the road and positioning in relation to traffic meters. The traffic meters log the vehicle traffic in and out of the park. We don't want to block the traffic meters so that they can properly collect the data. The surveying data and the traffic meter data will be used to determine how many people visit the park on average.
We took a break and then learned about the interview process and challenges in interviewing. We ran through the survey on the projector screen. Each interview starts with observing how many axles the vehicle has and if the people in the car appear to be coming from a recreation activity. All the interviews begin with an introduction and asking if the visitor would like to take the survey. The interview questions included asking the visitor: if they will be returning to this area today; have they been to or are they going to any other rec. areas today; how many people are in the car; how long have they been at the rec. area; what recreation activities did they participate in i.e. boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, playing field sports; will they be staying anywhere before returning home; are they or any of these family members in the military; do they have any serious problems hearing, seeing or walking; and what is there zip code. This is not all the questions, and each site has specific questions based on what amenities it has. Some of the challenges in interviewing include: non-english speaking visitors; visitor complaints; reluctant visitors; visitors that want to tell you their life story; and inclement weather. The training was very organized and included many situations that the surveyors might run into.
The next step to the training process was a hands on experience with the survey equipment. The computers were dispersed to the teams. Each team member had the opportunity to run through the survey multiple times. They were all quick to learn how to use the program.
Friday September 9th
The teams split up and went to visit the recreation areas that they will be conducting surveys at. I took one team, Dick took another team and Meredith went with the third team. We showed them how to properly set up the equipment. We also went over safety concerns at the sites. During this time we had the chance to explore some of the rec. areas and see why they are so popular. The teams looked forward to the first day of surveying on Saturday September 9th.
FIRST DAY OF SURVEYING
Saturday September 9th
We once again split into teams and went to the recreation areas. Each team had one supervisor that setup the cones and signs. We reviewed the spacing and function of the equipment. The first day was really busy for most of the teams. The weather on Saturday was really nice and warm. It seemed like many visitors were trying to enjoy the last few days of summer. The visitors ranged from families to lone fishermen. Everyone we surveyed was in high spirits and happy to participate in the survey.
SECOND DAY OF SURVEYING
Sunday September 10th
On the second day of surveying we split into teams once again. Each team went out with a supervisor that they haven't gone to sites with yet. On this day the members were responsible for setting up the survey sites. The supervisors observed as the members setup the sites. Minor adjustments were made in some instances to ensure that vehicles had enough room to safely drive through. The teams had another busy day. There was rain in the forecast, but it turned out to be another really nice day.
Sunday night we had a debrief meeting with Dick and Meredith. We went over survey complications and strategies. The Corps members became comfortable speaking with the rec. area visitors and conducting the surveys. We talked about making a protocol for visitors that just drive in and drive out. Instead of asking them if they went fishing, boating or hiking when we clearly see them just drive in to the park and leave, we skip those activity questions and ask them the other ones. We went over other situations we had in the field. We shared also shared our various strategies to safely and effectively conduct the survey. Dick, Meredith and I were impressed by the member’s enthusiasm, ability to learn and adapt, and their wiliness to work hard.